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Canadian Florist Business Forum Assembles Design, Financial, and Technology Experts

Canadian Florist hosted its annual business forum Monday, May 29 in Vaughan. Dozens of florists gathered for a day jam-packed with educational lessons.Citation

Laura Daluga, AIFD, owner of Department of Floristry in Ann Arbor, Michigan, kicked off the meeting with a mix of design advice and promotional ideas in “Exceeding the Demands of Today’s Gift Givers.”

The fourth generation florist delved into the farm to vase movement and shared simple ways to be more sustainable, including using biodegradable containers, sourcing locally whenever possible, and implementing a vase exchange program.

“Your customers do care about these things. It’s up to you to provide what they want and to let them know about it,” she said, adding that, “little actions can really add up.”

She encouraged florists to embrace negative space. “That’s your profit margin,” she said. “Plus, it’s dramatic and customers will be impressed.”
Don’t shy away from DIY enthusiasts.

“The maker movement can be a money maker and bring an entire new group of customers into your shop,” she said. If you sell consumers the supplies, “either they’ll ace it, want to design flowers over and over, and come back to you for materials or they’ll fail miserably and come back to you to do it properly.”

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She proposed concepts like a bouquet/corsage bar, wine and design parties, and wedding centerpiece workshops.
Lastly, she discussed cause selling and catering to customers’ philanthropic inclinations.

”Pick something local and non divisive and promote the heck out of it,” she said. “And be sure you’re transparent about how much money you’re going to donate and where it’s going. Otherwise, people will be distrustful.”

During “Markups and Profits and Revenues, Oh My!” Ryan O’Neil reflected on a missed opportunity his wife had a few years ago. She’d met with a bride and told her she’d get her a quote within in seven days.

“On Day six, after my wife had spent three hours calculating the costs discussed during the proposal, the bride emailed saying she’d decided to go with someone else,” he said. “We realized an instant quote was key not just to saving us time but to landing more clients.”

This revelation led the husband and wife team behind Twisted Willow in St. Louis, Missouri to develop Stemcounter.com, event software that generates accurate proposals, professional contracts, and other event planning tools. In his presentation, O’Neil talked about ways to adjust labour and markup prices to maximize profits, shared six steps to determine how much revenue you need per event, and five solutions if you discover your markup is too high.

Derek Myers, CPA, CFP, PFCI, an accountant with more than 30 years’ experience working with retail florists, focused on big picture thinking and goal setting in “Finding the Gold in Your Business.”

“Write down your top 10 goals every day for a month,” he said. “This exercise is not hocus pocus. It is based on a part of the brain called the reticular activating system. You’ll be amazed how many goals you will accomplish when you’re focused on them.”

Myers devoted much of his presentation to payroll costs, as he considers staff the most crucial ingredient to a flower shop’s success. “Your staff is your crew,” he said. “If they’re not working together, your business—your ship—isn’t going to go anywhere. You’ll never reach your goal.”

He also addressed “cargo” costs (your Cost Of Goods Sold). “You need to know what your COGS should be and what they really are,” he said. He strongly suggests conducting a physical inventory once a year at a minimum and using an accrual based accounting method.

“For a clear picture, you want to record expenses in the proper month,” he said. “That’s when you accrue them, not when you pay for them. There can be a significant gap between the two when you pay with a credit card.”

Horace Clark, of Yelp, revealed research about consumers’ buying habits in “Understanding the Mind of the Consumer.”

The vast majority (96 percent) of Yelp searches for florists are unbranded, he said. “Most are searching by proximity,” he said. To capitalize on this, florists should consider geofencing, a marketing technique in which customers receive push notifications for a special deal when they’re near a particular store. “The majority of Yelp searches are also on mobile phones, so you know they’ll receive these messages,” he said.

Clark also recommends retargeting, in which you set up ads to follow customers as they travel around the web. “That’s the cyber version of ‘moving’ with the consumer,” he said.

Of course, he also addressed the elephant in the room: reviews. “No matter what you’ve heard, you cannot buy good reviews on Yelp,” he said. “There’s no special treatment for advertisers.

The reviews come from customers, not our company.” You needn’t worry about an angry review torpedoing your business. “A 1-star review won’t kill your ranking,” he said. “What does hurt you is not responding.”

A response shows that you sincerely care about your customer’s concerns and are willing to rectify the situation. Another sure way to lose business: have a blank or unclaimed business page on Yelp. “The more you tell customers, the more human you seem,” he said. “People prefer doing business with people than a faceless entity. If you don’t have anything up, they’ll just keep scrolling through other florists.” And good news: Yelp profiles are free.

Attendees enjoyed a 45-minute networking break between sessions. Sponsors of this year’s Canadian Florist Business Forum included FTD, Smithers-Oasis, Alexandra Farms, Strider, Highland Evergreen, and Farm to Canada.

Katie Hendrick

Katie Hendrick is the editor-in-chief of Canadian Florist.


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